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August 17, 2010

Socialism 2010: Ideas For Changing The World

SS Editorial

Socialism 2010 Conference

Socialism is the largest Marxist conference in North America. Nearly a thousand participants came from across the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe for four days of meetings in Chicago on the current state of the class struggle, forms of belief and expression in this context, and exploration of the Marxist and other critical traditions in the fight against capitalism.

The conference in particular debated whether a double dip recession is in the making and what the consequences might be, as in the example of Greece where the public debt crisis is shredding public sector wages and social wages like pensions of all Greek workers.

There were a number of meetings on current struggles in the United States like generalizing from the positive lessons of Chicago’s Republic Steel occupation, the student and worker struggle in Puerto Rico against the crisis in public finance, immigration reform, and how to resist the Tea Party movement.

As well, issues of concern like the environment and genetically modified food and modes of expression like abstract art, modern musical forms like hip hop, rasta, and jazz, and sports (with Dave Zirin on the struggle against Arizona’s racial profiling of illegal Latin immigrants) were explored.

Internationally there was a stirring first hand account of the Gaza aid flotilla by Keven Ovenden of Viva Palestina, a Pakistan Labour Party speaker on peasant, women’s, and workers struggles on the edge of the war in Afghanistan, and Tariq Ali on the politics of western imperialism in South-West Asia.

What repeatedly came across is, whatever contradictions existed within Islamic societies, how important it is to wage the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement against Israel as a way to pressure Israel to create a space for Palestinian democratic rights – a vital ingredient in the region’s struggle for self-determination.

Socialism 2010 is also a forum to debate traditions of resistance. A number of radical traditions such as Utopian Socialism, Pacificism, Anarchism, Social Democracy, Third Worldism (examining the black revolutionary Fanon and the Algerian Revolution), and Populism (such as the American People’s Party movement in the 1890s) were debated.

As well, there were extensive discussions on the basics of the Marxist tradition, socialist classics like the Communist Manifesto, and in-depth, non-sectarian discussion of the lessons of revolutionary institutions like the Comintern or the Third International before Stalin (one example being the struggle to come to grips with the new reactionary phenomenon of fascism), and about historical struggles like building the United Front in China in the 1920s for national and social liberation or the IWW in building revolutionary unionism in North America.

While Socialism is sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, what is striking is the sober, respectful yet engaged environment in which this rich event in ideas, as a means to inform contemporary struggles, is conducted.

Readers who would like to attend Socialism 2011 should check the daily news feed on the Socialist Solidarity site next spring. The conference it should be noted is held twice, first in Chicago in early July and then in San Francisco later in the month. A travel pool is organized for members of Socialist Solidarity to cheapen costs.